A rousing adventure that introduces the issue of elephant trafficking in a gentle and appropriate way.

TUA AND THE ELEPHANT

How do you hide an elephant?

Inspired by a trip to an Asian elephant refuge, Harris transports young readers to the lands of curry, banana leaves and the bustling Chiang Mai Night Market. Little 9-year-old Tua, which means “peanut” in Thai, finds a young, but very large captured elephant. Their connection is instant. But this elephant is chained, used as tourist bait. Tua must face dangers including poachers and treacherous rivers as she steals away with the young elephant, pursued by two menacing mahouts, or elephant drivers. Naming her new friend Pohn Pohn, Tua escapes with her to a Buddhist temple, where she learns of an elephant preserve in the mountains. Will Tua be successful in getting Pohn Pohn into the preserve? For a book aimed at middle graders, kudos on three fronts: providing a child’s-eye view of Thailand with foreign words to be decoded in context, creating a strong connection between the elephant and the girl and using a simple vocabulary to introduce the complex issue of poaching. Yoo’s multiple illustrations, done in charcoal and linoleum block prints, catapult the story even higher. Foreign yet familiar, the action is often humorous and reinforces the sweet bond between pachyderm and “peanut.”

A rousing adventure that introduces the issue of elephant trafficking in a gentle and appropriate way. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7781-7

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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